August 15, 2006

Why I STILL Don't Write "Islamofascist"

Hatched by Dafydd

I have long objected to the term "Islamofascist," and even moreso to Michael Medved's new atrocity, "Islamo-Nazi"; but it's not because I'm afraid to hurt the feelings of some poor Moslem somewhere. My objections are:

  1. The term diminishes the true evil of the real Nazis and Fascists from World War II by "genericizing" their eldritch horror;
  2. The term also disguises the true evil of the murderous jihadis themselves; their perfidy is not some fabricated similarity to the Italian or German national socialists, but rather their end-of-the-world fanaticism that causes them to see murder as a mitzvah and death as a promotion.

I posted on it before; but today, Scott "Big Trunk" Johnson of Power Line posted a link to a William Shawcross column "on the subject of President Bush's use of the term 'Islamic fascists' to describe those apprehended in the airline terror conspiracy last week," as Scott put it.

I read the article... but I still think it's a very bad idea to use the term Islamofascist; if anything, Shawcross's use of it perfectly illustrates the danger. Here is his entire explanation of why he likes that appellation:

In a live BBC interview recently, I called Hizbullah "Islamo-fascists." The interviewer said nervously, "That's a very controversial description." I replied that it was merely accurate. She brought the interview to a swift close.

But how else should one describe a military machine that marches under the banner of a demagogic leader who seeks above all to kill Jews?

Let's leave aside the unlikelihood that the interview went exactly as Shawcross depicts it here; he's telling a tall tale, and it always makes a more exciting story if one's ideological enemies cringe backwards, covering their eyes, as the hero holds up the holy cross. Let's get at his definition of a Fascist.

To Mr. Shawcross, a Fascist is someone who marches in a military style for a leader who wants to kill Jews "above all."

The imperial Japanese during World War II were allied with Adolf Hitler; they enacted the same socialist and nationalist policies as Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy; but so far as I know, they did not go on any mad hunt for Japanese Jews to destroy; nor have I heard that they segregated American prisoners of war into Jews and gentiles. I suppose Shawcross would say that the WWII Japanese military dictators were not fascists.

Even more absurdly, we note that Mussolini certainly did not "seek above all to kill Jews;" to the extent that he did anything at all towards a "final solution," it was only because Hitler made him do it. Mussolini was very much the junior partner in that relationship.

Thus, despite the fact that Benito Mussolini invented Fascismo (the word itself is Italian) a decade before Hitler came to power in Germany, Mr. Shawcross would have to say that Mussolini was not a fascist!

And what about Josef Stalin? He ran a totalitarian military dictatorship, he was a demagogue, and he had a massive antisemitic campaign that drove the Jews out of large parts of the Soviet Union, enslaved them, and killed them in large numbers. Doesn't that mean that Mussolini and Tojo were not Fascists, but Stalin was? "But how else should one describe" him? ("Stalinist" comes to mind, as does "Communist.")

I don't know what to call the economic system of Iran; but it's certainly nothing like national socialism. And I have seen nothing attributed to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that indicates he wants to hunt down the Jews of Europe, South America, and the United States and kill them.

Sure, he's a little nutty on the subject of the state of Israel (as in, he wants to "wipe it from the map," presumably by the use of those nuclear weapons he's so anxious to get his paws on)... but as for the rest of the Jews in the world, I haven't seen anything that tells me he wants anything different for them than for the rest of the infidels: that they be made slaves to the faithful until such time as the 12th Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, is broken out of cold storage by Allah, and the Jews are destroyed for their wickedness in rejecting the original Mohammed.

But Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, is much more brazen about his beliefs, if Shawcross is to be believed (and I certainly believe him):

Hizbullah's Nasrallah has said that he wished all Jews would gather in Israel so they could all be destroyed at once; and that there is no creature more disgusting in the world than a Jew, "and note that I said a Jew, not an Israeli."

So by Shawcross's own definition, Nasrallah is an Islamofascist, because he is obsessed with killing all the Jews... yet his demagogic boss, Ahmadinejad, is not; he is merely a militant anti-Zionist.

Oddly, Osama bin Laden is also not particularly obsessed with the Jews; in the rambling, multi-page letter he released to the world, in which he took credit for the 9/11 massacre, I don't think he even mentions Israel... his big grievance is that American troops were on the holy soil of Saudi Arabia, at the Prince Sultan Air Base (Islam's 2,317th holiest city!) The same can be said of Musab Zarqawi and Muqtada Sadr -- which I suppose must mean that none of them is an Islamofascist either.

The absurdity of this definition is palpable. It's clearly a back-formation: Shawcross wants to call the jihadis something that includes the word "Fascist" or "Nazi," so we know they're really bad; thus, he creatively redefines the venerable word Fascist so that he can use it on Moslem extremists. Yeesh.

It's so obvious that Shawcross (and now President Bush has been infected) is really just saying, "you -- you Islamo-BADTHING!" (And I reckon Medved's "Islamo-Nazi" translates to "Islamo-SUPERDUPERBADTHING!") As a wordsmith, it grates on me like fishhooks across a chalkboard.

As I said back in my original post, the "fascist" component of the word is so highly charged with historical subtext that it becomes a shout -- and reduces the "Islamo" component to a mere whisper. But that's precisely the opposite of what should be: the contagion that spreads like soul-eating bacteria is not civilized Fascism; it's a particularly virulent and savage strain of Islam, one that squats on its haunches in a tent filthy with dried blood and devours all it can reach... it is Azathoth, the Blind Idiot God.

To bury this ancient horror behind the veneer of Fascist modernity -- a twentieth-century creation of fat European leather-boys in fetish-black uniforms -- is a criminal betrayal of language. Jihadism is a hallucinagenic nightmare of Cro-Magnon tribalism, where troglodytes gather to shovel great fistfuls of human flesh into their mouth-holes, while broken slave girls writhe in the dust of the cave floor.

It's not any kind of sophisticated "philosophy," not even an evil, decadent one; malignant jihadism is primordial.

I cannot abide the betrayal of language; and so I will not use the term. Not until somebody shows me a militant jihadist group that has reached the equisitely civilized level of sophistication of Julius Streicher.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 15, 2006, at the time of 10:06 PM

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Comments

The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

The term diminishes the true evil of the real Nazis and Fascists from World War II by "genericizing" their eldrich horror;

How? Upto 3 million dead in Bangladesh, up to3 million dead in Southern Sudan a half a million dead in Dafur hundreds of thousands dead in Algeria plus all the other odds and ends in what way is the Evil of the Nazis and Fascists in World War II diminished?

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 15, 2006 10:48 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

The term also disguises the true evil of the murderous jihadis themselves; their perfidy is not some fabricated similarity to the Italian or German national socialists, but rather their end-of-the-world fanaticism that causes them to see murder as a mitzvah and death as a promotion.

That I will buy that there is a dimenishment of the evil of the Jihadists, and not vice versa

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 15, 2006 10:50 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

fascism

often Fascism
A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.
Oppressive, dictatorial control.

fascistoften Fascist An advocate or adherent of fascism.
A reactionary or dictatorial person.

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 15, 2006 10:58 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

We probably would agree on this viewpoint ;-)

Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 15, 2006 10:59 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Excerpted and linked without comment at Old War Dogs.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 15, 2006 11:31 PM

The following hissed in response by: White Fang

----
Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.
----

This, I think, should be the root of the question. While it's fairly obvious that the Iranian madmen and the mess of jihadis bent on our destruction are not literally fascists, there is in one sense a major and obvious similarity between Hitler, Stalin, Osama Bin Laden, etc:

That is the belief that government can and should be used aggressively as a tool for some kind of ultimate new order. Now, that seems pretty damn simple, but let's face it, there are only two real types of political philosophies in this world and it'll be a long time before there are any others.

In the case of Nazi Germany, Hitler's peculiar socialist aims were meant to drive the world towards his 'utopian' vision. The USSR had the same idea, only in not exactly the same way. The jihadis who wish to see an Islamic earth too share this basic ideology. All of them seek to eliminate (Non-Aryans, Oppressors, Infidels), and all ignore human nature in favor of a perfect world where peoples' natural inclinations are refused.

The United States and the West, on the other hand, traditionally recognize human limitations and seeks to set up society with these in mind.

I'm somewhat suspicious of "Islamofascist" myself, but they're both members of the same basic mindset.

The above hissed in response by: White Fang [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2006 12:46 AM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

I couldn't locate the link earlier but I should mention that one of my Old War Dogs wrote a related post you might find interesting a few days back: Semi-connected thoughts

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2006 1:06 AM

The following hissed in response by: nk

Excellent post, Dafydd. It is political correctness of a sort. We are not fighting "Islamists" or even "radical Islamists" but "Islamic fascists". Even Justice Scalia got into the act last term writing of America's "Judaeo-Christian-Muslim tradition".

The above hissed in response by: nk [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2006 5:33 AM

The following hissed in response by: RRRoark

I'm actually waiting for some leftard to say, "It takes one to know one." After all, it is their favorite descriptor for Bush, isn't it?

The above hissed in response by: RRRoark [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2006 5:42 AM

The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz


No entry found for eldrich
.

Suggestions:
...
eldritch
...

3 entries found for eldritch:

adj : suggesting the operation of supernatural influences; "an eldritch screech"; "the three weird sisters"; "stumps...had uncanny shapes as of monstrous creatures"- John Galsworthy; "an unearthly light"; "he could hear the unearthly scream of some curlew piercing the din"- Henry Kingsley [syn: weird, uncanny, unearthly]

Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

Overall, I think that eldritch would be the wrong word.

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2006 8:43 AM

The following hissed in response by: FredTownWard

While I sympathize with your complaints about the imprecision in language, Dafydd, let's be honest. The best argument for repeatedly referring to them as Islamo-fascists or something similar is so Leftists, who refer to anyone who disagrees with them as "fascists", might eventually, at long last grasp that these people, who thirst for their blood as much as they do for ours, are "bad".

Given the Left's current detachment from reality, they need all the help they can get.

The above hissed in response by: FredTownWard [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2006 10:01 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

FredTownWard:

Hm... doesn't seem to be working.

Dafydd

The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2006 12:18 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Robert Schwartz:

Thanks!

Dafydd

The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2006 12:21 PM

The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz

We aim to please, you aim too please.

What Is 'Islamofascism'? By Stephen Schwartz : 16 Aug 2006:

***

... Islamofascism refers to use of the faith of Islam as a cover for totalitarian ideology. This radical phenomenon is embodied among Sunni Muslims today by such fundamentalists as the Saudi-financed Wahhabis, the Pakistani jihadists known as Jama'atis, and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. In the ranks of Shia Muslims, it is exemplified by Hezbollah in Lebanon and the clique around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran.

... The indicated movements should be treated as Islamofascist, first, because of their congruence with the defining characteristics of classic fascism, especially in its most historically-significant form -- German National Socialism.

Fascism is distinguished from the broader category of extreme right-wing politics by its willingness to defy public civility and openly violate the law. As such it represents a radical departure from the tradition of ultra-conservatism. The latter aims to preserve established social relations, through enforcement of law and reinforcement of authority. But the fascist organizations of Mussolini and Hitler, in their conquests of power, showed no reluctance to rupture peace and repudiate parliamentary and other institutions; the fascists employed terror against both the existing political structure and society at large. It is a common misconception of political science to believe, in the manner of amateur Marxists, that Italian fascists and Nazis sought maintenance of order, to protect the ruling classes. Both Mussolini and Hitler agitated against "the system" governing their countries. Their willingness to resort to street violence, assassinations, and coups set the Italian and German fascists apart from ordinary defenders of ruling elites, which they sought to replace. ...

Islamofascism similarly pursues its aims through the willful, arbitrary, and gratuitous disruption of global society, either by terrorist conspiracies or by violation of peace between states. Al-Qaida has recourse to the former weapon; Hezbollah, in assaulting northern Israel, used the latter. These are not acts of protest, but calculated strategies for political advantage through undiluted violence. ...

Fascism rested, from the economic perspective, on resentful middle classes, frustrated in their aspirations and anxious about loss of their position. The Italian middle class was insecure in its social status; the German middle class was completely devastated by the defeat of the country in the First World War. Both became irrational with rage at their economic difficulties; this passionate and uncontrolled fury was channeled and exploited by the acolytes of Mussolini and Hitler. Al-Qaida is based in sections of the Saudi, Pakistani, and Egyptian middle classes fearful, in the Saudi case, of losing their unstable hold on prosperity -- in Pakistan and Egypt, they are angry at the many obstacles, in state and society, to their ambitions. The constituency of Hezbollah is similar: the growing Lebanese Shia middle class, which believes itself to be the victim of discrimination.

Fascism was imperialistic; it demanded expansion of the German and Italian spheres of influence. Islamofascism has similar ambitions; the Wahhabis and their Pakistani and Egyptian counterparts seek control over all Sunni Muslims in the world, while Hezbollah projects itself as an ally of Syria and Iran in establishing regional dominance.

Fascism was totalitarian; i.e. it fostered a totalistic world view -- a distinct social reality that separated its followers from normal society. Islamofascism parallels fascism by imposing a strict division between Muslims and alleged unbelievers. For Sunni radicals, the practice of takfir -- declaring all Muslims who do not adhere to the doctrines of the Wahhabis, Pakistani Jama'atis, and the Muslim Brotherhood to be outside the Islamic global community or ummah -- is one expression of Islamofascism. ... Takfir, or "excommunication" of ordinary Muslims, as well as Hezbollah's Shia radicalism, are also important as indispensable, unifying psychological tools for the strengthening of such movements.

Fascism was paramilitary; indeed, the Italian and German military elites were reluctant to accept the fascist parties' ideological monopoly. Al-Qaida and Hezbollah are both paramilitary.

... Islamofascism is a distortion of Islam, exactly as Italian and German fascism represented perversions of respectable patriotism in those countries. Nobody argues today that Nazism possessed historical legitimacy as an expression of German nationalism; only Nazis would make such claims, to defend themselves. Similarly, Wahhabis and their allies argue that their doctrines are "just Islam." But German culture existed for centuries, and exists today, without submitting to Nazi values; Islam created a world-spanning civilization, surviving in a healthy condition in many countries today, without Wahhabism or political Shiism, both of which are less than 500 years old.
***

... To emphasize, fascism is something different, and much worse, than simple dictatorship, however cruel the latter may be. That is a lesson that should have been learned 70 years ago, when German Nazism demonstrated that it was a feral and genocidal aberration in modern European history, not merely another form of oppressive rightist rule, or a particularly wild variety of colonialism.

Similarly, the violence wreaked by al-Qaida and Hezbollah, and by Saddam Hussein before them, has been different from other expressions of reactionary Arabism, simple Islamist ideology, or violent corruption in the post-colonial world. ...

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2006 7:08 PM

The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz

It's fascism -- The Washington Times: August 12, 2006:

... The Muslims who tried to blow up these airplanes are in fact fascists. This might be worrisome to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose raison d'etre is raising the specter of anti-Muslim backlash. But that doesn't make it untrue.

Fascism is a chauvinistic political philosophy that exalts a group over the individual -- usually a race or nation, but in this case the adherents of a religion. Fascism also espouses centralized autocratic rule by that group in suppression of others. It usually advocates severe economic and social regimentation and the total or near-total subordination of the individual to the political leadership. This accurately describes the philosophies of Hitler, Mussolini, the leaders of Imperial Japan and other fascistic regimes through history. ...

It very accurately describes the philosophy of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and many other stripes of Islamism around the world. All the elements are present. The ideology is chauvinistic, regarding non-Muslims as a lesser breed of expendable or contemptible dhimmis and infidels. It favors autocracy and severe social and economic restrictions, as did the Taliban. It demands the total subordination of the individual to the group -- sometimes manifesting in murderously suicidal deaths like the fiery destruction Britain's would-be bombers sought. This is not mainstream Islam, of course. It is a corruption of
the faith.

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2006 7:14 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Robert Schwartz:

I'm sorry, Robert, but this is all just "argument by redefinition." Consider the defintions for "Fascism" used in your two comments. From your TCS post:

Fascism is distinguished from the broader category of extreme right-wing politics by its willingness to defy public civility and openly violate the law. As such it represents a radical departure from the tradition of ultra-conservatism.... Both Mussolini and Hitler agitated against "the system" governing their countries. Their willingness to resort to street violence, assassinations, and coups set the Italian and German fascists apart from ordinary defenders of ruling elites, which they sought to replace.

But not from ordinary Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. This "definition" of Fascism does not even distinguish it from Communism.

And from the Washington Times piece:

Fascism is a chauvinistic political philosophy that exalts a group over the individual -- usually a race or nation, but in this case the adherents of a religion. Fascism also espouses centralized autocratic rule by that group in suppression of others. It usually advocates severe economic and social regimentation and the total or near-total subordination of the individual to the political leadership. This accurately describes the philosophies of Hitler, Mussolini, the leaders of Imperial Japan and other fascistic regimes through history.

...And also Lenin and Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Castro.

I see the problem immediately: various people and groups seek to redefine the word "Fascist" into a complete synonym of "totalitarian," so that any totalitarian regime thereby becomes "Fascist" as well.

Any definition that calls Mao and Stalin Fascists is absurd on its face. The word may as well not bother existing, if it cannot even discriminate between a Nazi and a Communist!

If you want to call them "Islamo-totalitarians," fine; but they are not Fascists. They do not have any of the characteristics of Fascism -- number one of which is nationalism. In fact, all of the really virulent strains of jihadism are trans-national: they are not confined to any particular nation; they don't even recognize different nations.

If they see group-distinctions at all, it is at the tribal level. But it's more appropriate to note that groups like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah are pan-Sunni and pan-Shiite, respectively, and they frequently operate together as a pan-Islamic coalition.

Subtract the "national" from National Socialism, and you no longer have Fascists of any kind.

What we face is a totalitarian theocracy based upon 8th-century writings that despises modernity (Fascism is a modernist philosophy) as much as it abominates atheism (Fascism is Atheist as well, like all radical Socialism: the State is the god most high, and thou shalt have no other gods before it).

Militant jihadism professes that Allah and his prophet Mohammed are above everything, including any and all states; and the Iranian side of Islamism believes that the Hidden Imam himself, Muhammed al-Mahdi (pbuh) will return and rule personally in the name of Allah the most merciful.

Hitler would scorn these primitives, and Mussolini would laugh in their beards. They are not advanced enough to be Fascists; they're still frozen back in the days of ox-drawn carts and wandering nomads.

Dafydd

The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2006 11:59 PM

The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz

"Any definition that calls Mao and Stalin Fascists is absurd on its face. The word may as well not bother existing, if it cannot even discriminate between a Nazi and a Communist!"

There was no difference. Both sides were implementing the theories of Sorel and Gramisci.

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 17, 2006 6:07 PM

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